As mentioned in last Sunday’s post, the RAF officially dropped the FS cap for airmen in favour of the beret in 1948 (although it appears the RAF regiment had been wearing the beret since 1943). Tonight we are looking at one of these berets from the initial issue. The army had proved that the beret was a practicle choice for headwear in the second world war. It was cheap and easy to make compared with traditional military headwear, was comfortable to wear and as it could be folded and rolled without becoming damaged it was easy to stow it in a pocket. Indeed the practicality of the beret was such that it is still the headwear of choice in the British Armed Forces.
The first issue of the RAF beret is made of blue serge, with a leather headband and a rayon lining:
Inside the beret is a dark blue rayon lining, with the manufacturer’s details printed on:We can see that the beret was made by J Compton Sons & Webb Ltd in 1948 and the beret is a size 6 3/4, It is also marked with the WD /|\ mark. J Compton Sons & Webb originated as J Compton & Sons in 1899, it merged with Webb in 1922. They had a factory in Abertillery, Gwent, and tailors in London for Officer’s uniforms, they made allsorts of military and civilian uniforms throughout the twentieth century and are still in operation as part of the larger Christys’ group.
The other stamp in the beret gives its official designation ‘Beret, Cloth, Blue Grey’:
Interestingly, despite its title this is not a true beret. A beret should be made of a single piece of cloth, stretched and moulded to form the correct shape. As can be seen from the seems, this beret is made up of a crown and side pieces sewn together:This makes it much harder to get a ‘good’ shape to the beret, and in this respect this beret is very much like the wartime General Service caps worn by the army. Later berets used by the RAF were true berets made of one piece of cloth, but this early batch are distinguishable by these seams. Although the beret was the official headdress of the RAF, airmen were allowed to continue to purchase and wear the FS cap if they preferred for many years after.